Michigan defenseman Jon Merrill will be in the starting lineup tonight, as the sophomore makes his season debut against Lake Superior. Merrill, a rare bright spot for Team USA last week at the World Junior Championships (WJC), had been suspended for the entire first half of the season, missing 22 games. Stay tuned to CHN through the weekend, as we’ll have much more to come on Merrill’s return, including a feature story by early next week.
It’s a big first weekend of 2012 around the league… and in nonconference action as well. Most notably, Western Michigan will host the defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in a pair of games in Kalamazoo. The Broncos are coming off an impressive overtime win against St. Cloud, but UMD hasn’t lost since October 15. We’ll keep an eye on the goaltending situation for WMU, as it’ll be interesting to see if Andy Murray goes with junior Nick Pisellini or surprise freshman Frank Sublowski.
Michigan State will play its next six games at home, starting with a pair of contests against Miami. The RedHawks welcome back Austin Czarnik from the WJC. Czarnik is second on the team in goals (7) and leads the team in plus-minus rating. Goaltending is the story to watch for Miami though, as coach Enrico Blasi has shown a bit more confidence this season in Cody Reichard, who has started 15 times compared to classmate Connor Knapp’s seven.
More to come later this weekend on what should be an exciting start to 2012… and CHN will be in Cleveland next week with coverage of the Michigan/Ohio State outdoor game at the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field.